Paris: The most romantic city in the world
Sipping a coffee and soaking up the sophisticated air of this, the most metropolitan of cities, presented over a stunning backdrop of the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe or Notre Dame—you’d be forgiven for believing you’d slipped into a movie-set.
Everything from the cuisine to the accent, to the museums and culture, screams romance, nonchalance and glamour. Tourists and residents alike, clasp deep bags of designer labels, hoping that they too are emanating the same chic the city exudes. You’ll never be far from vintage and flea markets, bookshops and antique dealers; ideal for taking a break from the city’s grandeur, and soaking up some of its slower, sleeker paced traditions. Paris is a city of history. Of style. Of art. Of people. Vast numbers are drawn to its magic and romance year after year, wishing to be immersed in a love affair with the city, and just maybe, with someone else along the way.
Where are the best ‘work, rest and play’ districts in Paris?
The administrative districts of Paris are named and numbered. These arrondissements municipaux are organized relevant to their position around the river Seine.
Arrondissements 1 to 4 are located on the right (or north) bank, with 5 to 7 on the left. 8 to 12 are again on the north side, creating a second arc. Similarly, 13 to 15 create the same on the left, south bank—finally, arrondissements 16 to 20 complete the outer circle over the north bank area.
You’ll find each of the arrondissements labelled on street signs using the Roman numeral system but for more practical applications their uber-desirable central Paris postcodes number from 75001 to 75020.
1st Ie Right bank Louvre
2nd IIe Right bank Bourse
3rd IIIe Right bank Temple
4th IVe Right bank Hôtel-de-Ville
5th Ve Left bank Panthéon
6th Vie Left bank Luxembourg
7th VIIe Left bank Palais-Bourbon
8th VIIIe Right bank Élysée
9th IXe Right bank Opéra
10th Xe Right bank Entrepôt
11th XIe Right bank Popincourt
12th XIIe Right bank Reuilly
13th XIIIe Left bank Gobelins
14th XIVe Left bank Observatoire
15th XVe Left bank Vaugirard
16th XVIe Right bank Passy
17th XVIIe Right bank Batignolles-Monceau
18th XVIIIe Right bank Butte-Montmartre
19th XIXe Right bank Buttes-Chaumont
20th XXe Right bank Ménilmontant
Central Paris covers the first 4 arrondissements and the 10th—home to the districts of Ile St-Louis, Ile-de-la-Cité, Louvre, Les Halles, Marais, Grands-Boulevards, Montorgeuil, République, and Canal St-Martin.
The smallest by area and least populated is Louvre. Famed for its museum and Tuileries Gardens, everything is in walking distance. If you’d like a photo of the Arc de Triomphe for your Instagram account, or to check out the latest fashions of Les Halles shopping mall, everything is accessible, and with many more than suitable stop-off rest spots along the way.
Louvre is also one of the most active business districts in Central Paris. Don’t be tricked into thinking it’s purely a tourist trap; there is a lot more going on here than meets the eye. Its residential population may only amass to 16k, yet there are 4 times as many jobs here than there are residents.
Bourse is another important business district in Central Paris, playing home to the Paris stock exchange as well as several of the city’s major bank headquarters. Again, it’s not all work, work, work, as visitors and locals alike are spoilt for shopping amidst the many commercial arcades. The Opéra-Comique’s Salle Favart leads the charge of the district’s mix of theatres, as entertainment still plays its part at the heart of the area.
Marais is more peaceful and less touristy than the other Central Paris districts. You’ll find more designer boutiques and galleries here, as well as its open spaces, lush parks and hidden fountains. Marais delivers the real romance of Paris. It’s a wonderful place to stay and explore. Its diverse mix of independent galleries and specialist stores creates a strong pull to this centrally located, but more relaxed tourist scene. It’s incredibly grand and marvellously old-fashioned.
The Left Bank contains the 5th to the 7th and 13th to 15tharrondissements—home to Bibliothèque François Mitterrand, Panthéon-Sorbonne, St-Michel, St-Germain-des-Près, Invalides, Champs-de-Mars-Tour Eiffel, Convention, Alésia, Butte-aux-Cailles, and Montparnasse.
Full of typical and traditional Parisian charm, the Left Bank includes a selection of safe residential districts.
In Bibliothéque, you’ll find plenty of condo-style apartment living, with rooftop restaurants galore and good public transport links.
There are narrower streets, simple bistros and quaint bookshops in the Latin Quarter. If this sounds more like you, then Panthéon, Sorbonne and St-Michel should be right up your street.
However, for those with a taste for the finest things in life, St-Germain-des-Prés is where you need to be. What was once really rather shabby, is now utterly chic, and home to the most expensive restaurants, designer boutiques and galleries the city has to offer.
Western Paris contains the 8th, 16th, and 17th arrondissements, as well as the Western suburbs. This is where you’ll find the Madeleine, Trocadéro, Champs-Elysées, Auteuil, Monceau, Ternes, Neuilly-sur-Seine, Levallois, and Boulogne-Billancourt districts.
As we travel further from the city centre, the prices for property and their rents fall accordingly. However, that doesn’t mean that standards suffer. Western Paris is a very smart district. Apartment buildings present with marble entrances, balconies and elevators to each floor; there are plenty of local amenities, from fresh food markets to boutique shopping, as well as a number of spacious parks and gardens.
Monceau and Ternes are a little less expensive, as they sit a little further from the centre. They’re both well situated to take advantage of the fresh air and freedom provided by Parc Monceau. With 20 acres of curved walkways, statues and play areas, it’s a haven for families and visitors alike.
For those looking for less rest and more adventure, then Champs-Élysées offers an excellent base for exploration. It heralds plenty of artist attractions, must-visit markets, and France’s most famous shopping street.
Northern Paris contains the 9th, 17th, and 18th arrondissements, including the Batignolles, Montmartre, Pigalle, Notre-Dame-de-Lorette districts.
Popular with young families is Batignolles, with its parks, cafés, bistros and fresh food markets.
Montmartre also has a lively market, with picturesque stairs that lead to it and the local town hall. Its streets are lined with retro cafés, homes with gardens, and ivy-clad apartments—it’s very ‘Paris’, as seen through the eyes of its visitors.
Tourists flock to Pigalle, with its sex shops, fusion bistros, concept hotels, cocktail bars, and of course, the Moulin Rouge. As well as the famed nightlife, Rue des Martyrs offers food heaven with all sorts of indulgent boulangeries, chocolateries, and cafés.
Finally, we come to the 11th, 12th, 19th, and 20th arrondissements. Here you’ll find Bastille, Buttes-Chaumont, Ménilmontant, and Nation.
Eastern Paris is home to the most working-class of the districts. With its less-expensive neighbourhoods, yet retaining much of Paris’s charm, it’s very popular with first-time buyers.
Bastille provides excellent eateries at more sensible prices, and the many boutique shops are a little more affordable than their city-centre alternatives. However, its residents are still spoilt for entertainment and culture. There’s a mass of choice to cover most tastes, and of course, the famous Opéra Bastille leading the charge.